Graffiti covered every wall; abandoned children roamed every street, and trash littered every foot of earth. I had traveled only two hours away from home and yet everything felt so different; I had reached Tijuana. My mission here was to build a house, help an orphanage, bathe kids, and utilize the Spanish I had learned in school. The tasks seemed daunting, but I wanted to complete them without regrets. At the beginning, I was inundated by the long lists of responsibilities. At the end of the week, knowing that I helped all these kids and made them smile made every drop of sweat, every blister, and every feeling of fatigue seem insignificant. After the trip my perspective on many things changed: My respect for others, my desire to take initiative, and my appreciation for what I have.
After an hour drive, our car pulled up to a dirt lot. Dotting the hillsides, weeds illuminated the barren land. A mother, Norma, and her children awaited our arrival. Neighborhood kids swarmed us, welcoming my group warmly, as if we were family. I learned that these kids were abandoned and we were the closest thing they had to a family. They called me “abuelita”, their “little grandma”. After working under the hot sun for three days, we finally completed the house. I learned how to hammer, how to patch my bruises and how to work collectively as a team. I wish I could say it was this gorgeous house, but it was only the size of my bedroom. I felt like we had not done enough to help Norma’s family. But when our team handed over the keys to Norma, she started to cry and said that we had “made her dream become reality”. Taken aback by her effusive reaction because the house was so small and yet she was so grateful, I felt proud of what I had done. I had a new respect for those who suffer from poverty and also found myself humbled by how Norma and her family acted towards our group. When our team went back to the dorms, I talked a leader about how a mere three days of our time had changed a family’s destiny. I started to reflect on how I spent my time, not only in Tijuana but also within my own community. Going back home, I resolved to utilize my time to benefit others rather than myself and to take more initiative in the future.
The night before I left Tijuana, a worker from Spectrum Ministries came to speak to my youth group. After speaking about his experiences, he offered a peso to each person. He mentioned that one coin by itself is just a simple coin, but collectively with other coins it becomes “change”. Each peso symbolizes an individual and with numerous individuals working towards a cause, many changes can be made. Aaron, the Spectrum worker, also mentioned a quote from J. Elliot: “Wherever you are-be all there”. I made a commitment that day to strive towards becoming a part of that collective change and to be completely present wherever I may be in the future. Only by working together can we all make a difference; our little pesos will add up to make a lot of change.
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